Men’s Mental Health

Before I even begin this, I’d like to say that mental health (regardless of gender) is one of the largest unspoken ailments we face in today’s society. Too many people are afraid to even discuss mental health issues or concerns because of the heavy social stigma it carries. This may be insensitive in some ways or it may seem like I’m oversimplifying it. That is not my intention, the purpose of this is to let people know you are not alone. It is a means and a way of offering help to those who don’t know where to get it. It’s also a real story of how it can be extremely easy and only scary in our minds.

I’d like to start by offering the Suicide Prevention Hotline number

1-800-273-8255

They are open 24/7 days a week. You don’t have to call them right when you’re at your last straw, they are there to help you anytime you need someone to talk things out with. They offer all different ways to help depending on your specific situation. You can also check out their website here. They offer online chat as well as other ways to help. I will also include NIMH website which can also offer more clarification and statistics.

Once again, I’d like to reiterate that they are not only there to help with Suicide but also other mental health concerns.

Suicide is one of the leading killers in our country. 78% of suicides that happen in this country are men which is a staggering amount. New studies are showing it tends to be because men are less-likely to discuss their feelings than the female counterpart.

All credit for this goes to NIMH

Now there are many differences and variables to each individual case, I’m not here to start a gender war or say that men need more help than women. I am an advocate for seeking self-help. Many men of different races, age-groups, and sexual orientations battle mental illness, depression, and suicidal thoughts. However most people feel that they can handle it on their own.

You would not, I assume, attempt to handle diabetes on your own. I’d also go on a limb to suggest, that if you broke a bone in your body, you would not attempt to deal with it on your own. You would seek professional help in whatever ways make sense to you and your situation. Mental health should be no different. The human mind is a body part like any other. Although we struggle to define and figure out the finer mechanics of this complicated body part we do know a few things.

  • It needs certain things to function properly. Just like any body part their are many needs that the brain has. Oxygen, vitamins, blood-flow, and stimulation are only a few of the necessities for a healthy brain.
  • It can malfunction from injury. Sometimes a concussion can lead to a mental health disorder. A bullet to the brain can severely change both your character and your physical abilities. Any damage to the head from inhalation, trauma, or disease can affect mental health.
  • Wear and tear. The brain just like any other body part can grow when you train it, and can be damaged by over excursion. Too much stress and overthinking can literally make you feel like your frying your brain. In certain ways it could be said that it’s true.
  • Regular Maintenance. You clean your teeth every 6 months even if they don’t hurt. You should go to your physical at least annually even if you feel like you’re in good condition. Hell, even your car needs to go to the mechanics to have the tires and oil checked. Do the same with your mental health.

There is no shame in asking for help. I know men want to feel the part. A real man doesn’t get overwhelmed by feelings. A real man doesn’t need to cry. That’s so inaccurate. A real man would be able to honestly and openly discuss his feeling without feeling like they are less of a man because of it.

I myself found that I needed to seek help because I was starting to feel overwhelmed by the thoughts that I had in my head. I had convinced myself that life was worse that it really is. I was in my mid-twenties before I realized that it was my way of thinking that was my problem and not actually the world around me.

I decided that it would be a critical step for me to seek help. I didn’t know how to do it or what to do, but I spoke to my mother first and foremost because she’s my trusted person. It’s possible that your trusted person is a teacher, sibling, or your landlord, whoever it is make that the person you go to to ask for help. If you don’t have a person like that or you don’t feel comfortable opening up that closely with someone you know well then please call the suicide prevention hotline and talk to them.

My mother, was shocked to hear that I felt at all depressed and anxious. The fact that I had convinced myself of so many falsities had surprised and probably hurt her. “How come you never mentioned it before?”. It’s just another dirty secret that I had to come out of the closet with.

What should I do?

Have you tried talking to your doctor? No, I can’t possibly let me doctor know that I think I have depression. Every time I had my physical they asked if I had suicidal thoughts and every single appointment my heart would skip a beat and I’d lie “no” and they’d always reply “Yeah, you don’t seem like the type. You’re so happy all the time.”

THERE IS NO TYPE. Anyone, regardless of their outward expression or behavior could be dealing with mental stress or mental disorders. Most of the people who commit suicide leave behind tons of friends and family who never saw it coming. Never assume that everyone is O.K and DO NOT dismiss someone who actually comes to you discussing mental health. Even if you think they are doing it for attention, it is possible they are, but that still means their mental health needs assistance.

I remember the appointment when I finally came out, during the pre-visit questions I answered them all normally, and when the nurse said “Do you ever think of suicide” I paused and my eyes damn near watered.

yes…

I said it so quietly and meekly which is unusual for my size.

I think I have depression.

I closed my eyes, I’m not sure what I expected but I KNEW it would be bad. Maybe right away they’ll send me to an asylum. Maybe they will lock me up for a week and put nodes on my head and make you play with puppets. Even though I KNEW that’s what was going to happen….it didn’t. She didn’t make a big production about any of it. She simply typed the answer in the computer and told me she’d let my Primary Physician know.

Ok…I felt a little better. I had said it out loud and nobody came to lock me away. I went through the rest of my appointment like normal without my doctor mentioning it. I felt almost relived…maybe the nurse had forgotten to mention it and I could push this off a little longer. Maybe I’d feel better next week and regret this whole appointment altogether.

At the end of the appointment she brought it up. “I also see that you think you might be depressed.”

BAM! That hit me like a brick. Why did I even mention it…because I needed to. Right. Right. But now people know! She’s going to think I’m crazy.

Turns out I’m not. Turns out most people feel depressed sometimes, and a large portion of people feel it more often that sometimes.

There’s an online questionnaire by Psychology Today that let’s you take it online and help you decide if you might want to consider getting help. I took a paper version in my doctors office that took me about 5 minutes to fill out. She let me fill it out privately and returned to discuss my answers.

Some of the questions hit home and made me get emotional. It was like ripping years of band-aids off of my brain. It was the beginning to healing. She discussed my answers and told me probably the most relieving thing I heard out of the whole appointment.

“We don’t like to diagnose right away because it’s hard for us to diagnose something we can’t see.” GOOD! That mean’s I’m not getting a label just a possibility. She told me that it was possible that I had depression and a little bit of bi-polar disorder. She recommend I see a social worker in my local clinic to help.

I’ll take that! It’s not a psychologist or a therapist, so I’m not crazy. I’m just seeing a social worker because…i need some work…socially. (Whatever helps you sleep at night right?))

So that’s how it began. I won’t give you particular details about our sessions but this Wonderful Social Work and I sat in a room together for about 30 minutes and talked. He kept notes of certain things but I didn’t have to lay in a chair like in the cartoons. He didn’t try to break apart everything I was saying to blame my issues on someone else, he just simply gave me a new perspective.

He helped me understand that we all need a little maintenance sometimes that feeling overwhelmed and ready to go crazy is actual a more common experience than I had originally though. Discussing my life and my hang-ups helped me find a way to deal with my problems and calm myself down.

Our sessions were at my convenience, at first we started bi-weekly. Then we went down to a month. Then a few months at a time. Before I knew it I had learned way to manage and deal with my depression and anxiety. He helped me realize a lot of key facts about communication and being open and honest.

That leads me to this. The reason I am being so open with such a personal story is because that’s what we need. We need to feel comfortable discussing the uncomfortable and the more we do it the easier it becomes.

It’s been three years since I last saw the social worker but he’s given me gems that I will carry with me the rest of my life. It changed my entire outlook on things and even changed the frequency in which I feel genuinely depressed.

Don’t be afraid to seek help. Online, over the phone, face to face there are dozens of ways to reach out and save yourself.

Everyone is worth saving.

You’re Homework from this post:

1.) Be kind. Every person is going through something or they have or some day they will. It’s that simple. Don’t make excuses for someone who’s being an asshole but try to understand that maybe they just haven’t gotten the help they need. Most people who end up in therapy are there because of someone else who felt didn’t need therapy.

2.) Seek Help. If you have any symptoms of mental health problems, suicide, or depression seek help. If you have friends or loved ones who show symptoms offer help but don’t FORCE it. Let them know you are there if you need it.

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